Badminton champ on court days after heart attack

Colin Hepburn. Picture: Toby Williams
Colin Hepburn. Picture: Toby Williams
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Super-fit Portobello 68-year-old Colin Hepburn has continued to cause a racket on the international badminton scene, even after a ­life-­threatening episode.

Within a week of suffering a heart attack while driving between Newcastle and ­Edinburgh with wife Judy and undergoing a life-saving operation, he was back on the court.

And, incredibly, the grandfather, who took up the sport at the sprightly age of 40, has just been crowned a badminton world champion for the second time, putting his ordeal behind him once and for all.

He and partner David Barr, 65, beat a Canadian duo, who had not lost since 1998, to win gold at the World Masters in Turin in the over-65s doubles, while also scooping silver in the over-60s category. It added to a gold they received in Edmonton, Canada, in 2005.

Mr Hepburn today paid tribute to the medical staff at the city’s Western General who had made his incredible recovery possible, and encouraged more people to take up sport in their later years.

He first experienced symptoms in April last year when he felt “excruciating” pain which he described as like “someone putting a knife into my chest and turning it”.

After phoning NHS 24, an ambulance was quickly ­dispatched and despite paramedics initially suspecting indigestion, Mr Hepburn was taken to the Western where he was told he had suffered a heart attack after a blood test. A scan later revealed that he was suffering from thinned arteries.

“I was told I was going to have to have an operation to have three stents in,” he said. “Three-quarters of an hour later there I was, in no pain, and they said ‘that’s you done’.

“If someone had handed me a badminton racket there and then I could have said ‘I’m your man’. I couldn’t believe it.

“They let me out at nighttime, and I went for a night out with the badminton crowd. When I told them I’d just had a heart attack they were stunned.” The previous week, Mr Hepburn had played 22 games of badminton in a ­Scottish veterans competition.

Following his attack he was back playing within a week.

He played in a series of tournaments before scooping the ultimate honour at the World Masters – the biggest sporting event of its kind in the world in terms of competitor numbers.

“There’s nothing I can’t do that I did before,” Mr ­Hepburn added. “I will be eternally grateful to all at the cardio unit in the Western.”

Mr Hepburn took up badminton after being taken to play at Meadowbank.

He is a member of the ­Western Badminton Club and usually plays twice a week.

“They said to me in hospital that I got better so quickly because I was fit,” he said. “That’s a thing to bear in mind when you get older. Some might say ‘what’s the point?’, but it’s when you get older that these things happen, and if you’re fit there’s a good chance you’ll come out smiling at the other end.”

Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian’s associate medical director, said she was delighted to hear of Mr Hepburn’s progress.

She added: “The Edinburgh Heart Centre is regarded as one of the top cardiac centres in the world and, through their skills and dedication, the team are committed to achieving the highest quality of treatment.

“I’m happy to hear Mr ­Hepburn is doing well and that he’s back winning badminton competitions at an ­international level.”